The Best Panettone Comes From Irpinia

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Photo from Il Giornale del Cibo

I have a confession to make… I cannot get enough of Panettone (the name loosely translates to “large bread”). We Americans have seen the brightly colored boxes with the string pop up all over during the holiday season. This year, I even discovered an incredible one imported to the US from the Milan region that had candied pumpkin, pumpkin cream and all sorts of delightful fall flavors. I tried it, loved it, and went back to Sam’s Club to buy three more. I love Panettone.

But even more than I love Panettone, I love Irpinia, so imagine my surprise when I saw an article from La Nostra Voce that claimed that the best traditional Panettone in all of Italy was deemed that created by Raffaele Romano of Pasticceria Fratelli Romano in Solofra, Avellino Province.

Oh, yes. This is a culinary dream come true. Just so you know, Milan is considered the “home” of traditional Panettone, so this was quite the coup for Signore Romano!

The competition was part of the Sweety of Milano Festival, part of which included Panettone Day. Signore Romano was one of 25 finalists in the competition and left victorious. Signore Romano’s Panettone was judged based off of how it looks, its color, quality of baking, how much it rose while baking, the quality of ingredients used, and… of course… taste.

Signore Romano was quoted by La Nostra Voce as saying, “I am very proud of this result. To take on an icon of Italian pastry such as the panettone is a great challenge for those of us in the baking profession. To see my creation reign supreme over more than 200 recipes in such a prestigious competition gives me enthusiasm to keep growing my skills and to take on new challenges.” (Translation by me)

Now for the month of October, Signore Romano and the other finalists will get to exhibit their creations in My Temporary Shop, a modern concept store in Corso Garibaldi in downtown Milano, similar to an American “pop up” store, where people will have the opportunity to buy and taste the best Italian pastry creations.

For those of us who can’t fly over to Milan for Panettone, check out the Panettone Project by Weekend Bakery… and buon appetito!

Celebrating Greco di Tufo

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From Corriere dell’Irpinia

One of the most popular wine festivals in all of Italy will take place on September 14, 15 and 16– the Tufo Greco Festival in the town of Tufo in Avellino Province. This festival celebrates Greco di Tufo wine in all of its glory– a white wine made from the “greco” grape that has been certified DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata), which is the highest level of quality assurance for Italian wines as they have been analyzed and tasted by government–licensed personnel before being bottled. If the government gives that designation, then you know the wine you are drinking is the best you can get!

This festival, seen above in an article from the Corriere dell’Irpinia, celebrates Greco di Tufo wine as well as the culture, sights and sounds of Irpinia.  The event itself will include concerts by Molotov d’Irpinia, a local musical group with a gigantic following, as well as other local and regional musical acts.

The festival will also feature “wine trekking”– which is a tour of the various vineyards in the region, complete with tastings and food samplings. There will also be demonstrations of the Tarantella of Montemarano (stay tuned for a future post!) and street musicians singing traditional songs.

Thousands of people descend upon Tufo for this festival, which has 854 residents as of 2017. Want more information? Visit http://tufogrecofestival.it/ and be sure to raise a toast in celebration of one of Irpinia’s greatest treasures!

 

 

 

The Art of Tombolo

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Original photo from Rosmarinonews.it

One of the most striking traditional art forms I saw while in Irpinia was that of “tombolo,” a form of lace making that requires special needles, a skilled eye and a lot of patience.

In the town of Santa Paolina, nicknamed “the town of tombolo,” the old tradition is alive and well– in fact, there’s even a type of school where the town’s elderly women teach the skill to anyone who would like to learn, ensuring that the centuries-old art form lives on.

Tombolo was born in Campania during the Middle Ages as a way to embellish a priest’s vestments for celebrating Mass, but it quickly spread to nobility wishing to show off their status. In Irpinia and in the area surrounding Salerno, tombolo work developed into an extremely detailed and delicate art form– variations of which were even brought to the United States by immigrants from the region, including by my great-grandmother! The name comes from the instrument used to create the delicate pieces of lace– here’s one as it is being created with the tombolo instruments from the website, Irpinia Focus:

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Are you interested in learning more? I strongly suggest you reach out to Giuseppe Silvestri at Unpli Irpinia— his association is dedicated to preserving the artisan traditions of Irpinia (as well as other history and culture) and he will be happy to introduce you to a tombolo class next time you’re in Italy!

Until next time… a presto!

The Journey Begins

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My grandfather came from Guardia dei Lombardi, Avellino Province, Italy, in 1927 when he was just 11 years old. While he always wanted to return home, he never made it.

This blog is my attempt at celebrating his beloved Irpinia, the section of Avellino Province where his hometown is located. As an Italian-American historian, I’ve discovered that not a lot of people know much about the current traditions and life in the regions from where their ancestors came. Since I speak the language, love the culture and am a writer by trade and by passion, I figured it would be a great idea for me to start telling people about all of the amazing history and traditions found in Irpinia, mixed in with some old family tales from my ancestors’ lives in Guardia and in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where we all live.

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy writing it.